Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Most Pastors Live a Lie

It is not good for man to be alone.........a statement we all seem to agree with until it comes to the men and women who proclaim it from their pulpits.  Of all the lonely people in this world, there are few who tend to live a lonelier life than that of a pastor or minister.  These individuals, although often surrounded by people, tend to live their lives in a secret solitude few will ever understand.  But why?  Why is it that people who are supposed to make a living at relationships seldom have any that are completely real?  Well.....I suppose it is probably because we won't let them.  

We love our pastors to be funny and intelligent, we like them to be warm and kind, but the one thing we don't like them to be is REAL, and boy do they know it.

Pastor's aren't allowed to struggle with the things with which the rest of us deal.  They aren't allowed to be tempted, to lust, to deal with pornography, or doubt, or anxiety.  We don't let them speak their true thoughts about what they may or may not struggle with in the Scriptures.  Pastor's aren't allowed to have rocky patches in their marriages or problems with their finances or to have a potty mouth when they stub their toe.

You see, we claim that pastors are called to be examples to the rest of us but in actuality, that's exactly what they are not.  We don't want them to be examples, we want them to be perfect.  And if they are not.....we fire them.

Who in their right mind is going to come out and admit to someone that they have a porn addiction or that their marriage is on the rocks or that they are doubting God when they risk their very livelihood and the livelihood of their families?  Who isn't going to be able to resist the temptation not to tickle the ears of their congregations with the traditionally safe theologies of their denominations?  Especially when this is their full time job?  

But what kind of an "example" can a person be when they aren't allowed to even be human?  If we are to learn from our pastors how to follow Christ, will we learn more by watching them run or by watching them get back up after they fall?  Ideally, shouldn't pastors be the most transparent and real among us?  Shouldn't it be by allowing them to publicly grow and wrestle with their demons that we learn how to do the same?

But instead we have conditioned them to hide and suppress their challenges, forcing them to try to overcome their issues in secret, which often leads to a festering mold that we don't learn about until they have a massive collapse with devastating consequences.  Who is really the greater hypocrite, the pastor who pretends to be perfect or the flawed people who demand perfection from their spiritual leaders?

Perhaps if we would like to get the most out of our pastors we should consider allowing them to lead by example rather than by perception.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Will Hathaway: The Trouble with Hell...

Will Hathaway: The Trouble with Hell...: The Hell Doctrine......you know.....the belief that if you don't accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are destined and doomed to an ...

The Trouble with Hell...

The Hell Doctrine......you know.....the belief that if you don't accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are destined and doomed to an eternity writhing in the fires of Hell?  This is one of the most foundational doctrines in all of Christianity and like it or not, it has profoundly sculpted the ways and reasons in which Christianity is presented.

In recent years there has been some different interpretations in regard to what Hell is and how it works but the intention of this writing is not to enter that debate.  The purpose of this post is simply to examine the effects of our current beliefs on Hell and how they might influence how Christianity looks today.

What would be the highest priorities for a follower of a faith system that believed all who fail to accept it are doomed to Hell?  After all the champion Bible verse of Christianity claims "whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

As a good person if you believe other people are going to Hell because they don't "believe" something, then wouldn't your highest priority be to get them to believe that very thing?  And when we boil it all down, "believing" isn't much more that what you think about something right? I think Jesus was the Son of God and that He died for my sins, therefore it could be said that I "believe."   If I don't think those things then it would be said that I don't "believe."  And according to the traditional Christian beliefs that is what basically determines who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. Essentially, do I think the right way.

So if that is the basic premise, then one would think the natural direction followers of such a religion might take would be to try to convince as many people as possible to "think" a certain way as quickly as possible so as to save their souls.  They might conduct activities designed to draw as many people as possible to attempt to convince as many as they can to think in a different way; to think in a way that can be defined as "believing."  That would have to be the highest priority, as anything else would be irresponsible.  Get them "saved" first and we can work on the rest later.  In doing so we create environments in which we try desperately to convince people by any means, be it by emotion or fear or euphoria, to change the way they think.  We create faith factories that attempt to churn out as many "believers" as possible.  Which by the way, is a lot like what modern Christianity does in fact look like today.

But, what might Christianity look like if the Hell Doctrine wasn't so prevalent?  What might it look like if the fear of Hell wasn't such a driving force?

Jesus stressed that we were to "love" God and love our neighbors, and love our enemies, and to do things like make "disciples," all of which are things that take time.  And time is something we don't have much of when we are in a race against it to save the soul of the lost.  With a fate as terrible as Hell, the focus becomes much more about quickly saving people from something dreadful rather than patiently trying to show them the better way of love.

All this to say that interpretation of the Scriptures can create vastly different Christian experiences.  Is our faith fear and dread based at its absolute core leading to a frantic breakneck race to save as many as possible?  Or does it provide us the time needed to properly cultivate the friendships and relationships of which love requires?  Perhaps it's a bit of both, but in the end it seems like the highest priority for Jesus was love over faith, I just hope we are giving ourselves enough time to make that our reality.